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The mainstream view; however, is that the Qur'an recognizes the basic inequality between master and slave and the rights of the former over the latter.
The historian Brunschvig states that from a spiritual perspective, "the slave has the same value as the free man, and the same eternity is in store for his soul; in this earthly life, failing emancipation, there remains the fact of his inferior status, to which he must piously resign himself." Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Qur'an, most of these are Medinan and refer to the legal status of slaves.
This article is about views of Muslims on the institution of slavery.
For the history of slavery in Muslim lands, see History of Slavery in the Muslim World.
The minority were white slaves of foreign extraction, likely brought in by Arab caravaners (or the product of Bedouin captures) stretching back to biblical times.
Pious exhortations from jurists to free men to address their slaves by such euphemistic terms as "my boy" and "my girl" stemmed from the belief that God, not their masters, was responsible for the slave's status.
Bernard Lewis states that the Qur'anic legislation brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching effects: presumption of freedom, and the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances.
There is no conclusive evidence of the existence of enslavement for debt or the sale of children by their families; the late and rare accounts of such occurrences show them to be abnormal, Brunschvig states Two classes of slave existed: a purchased slave, and a slave born in the master's home.
Over the latter the master had complete rights of ownership, though these slaves were unlikely to be sold or disposed of by the master.
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It may be noted that the word 'abd' (slave) is rarely used, being more commonly replaced by some periphrasis such as ma malakat aymanukum ("that which your right hands own"). Clarence-Smith has highlighted the point of view of Ghulam Ahmed Pervez on this issue, who argued that the term is used in the past-tense in the Quran, thus signalling only those individuals who were already enslaved at the dawn of Islam.